Share this

Sep 30, 2008

TVBS screw up

Today's most viewed Youtube video (in Taiwan), in which a TVBS anchor and someone else, maybe a producer, screwed up during prime time and cursed on air during a report about A-bian...

More on milk powder scandal

As Talking Show pointed out last night, what was the point of sending this team of experts from Taiwan to China to talk about the milk powder scandal?

Here were the main results of the meeting, via the China Post:

Public health and food safety inspection officials from Taiwan have reached agreement with their counterparts in China to set up a mechanism for close monitoring, information exchanges and emergency responses by specially designated teams of staff, he said.

Yeh said government agencies and the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), which handles direct dealing of cross-Taiwan Strait affairs with Beijing in the absence of formal ties, will work together with counterpart parties to ensure that consumers and enterprises here will not be affected by unsafe products.

Public health and food safety will be at the top of the agenda for upcoming talks in Taipei between the SEF and the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS). ...

During the three-day visit to Beijing, the Taiwan delegation compiled a lot of data on the proliferation in China of melamine-tainted dairy products and food ingredients, some of which were imported into Taiwan.

The team also gained knowledge of how Chinese authorities handled the building furor over the adulterated milk powder, which killed at least four infants and sickened 53,000 in China, he added.

The SEF officials said any requests Taiwan makes for compensation to cover losses caused by the toxic Chinese imports will be handled through negotiations between the SEF and its Chinese counterpart, the ARATS.

The question Talking Show has is, why would the government be dumb enough to count on the Chinese being transparent about their food situation when a much more dependable method would be for the Taiwan government to actually bother testing imported Chinese food goods with a higher regularity? The US has tested 1,000 incoming milk-product shipments this year; Taiwan tested zero before news of the scandal broke.

Why are the latest reports of poisoned chocolate being treated with deference to Beijing -- why wait for China to tell you something is wrong when others have found serious problems and you should clearly be doing testing and preparing to do recalls?

They're also wondering why on earth compensation should be handled through SEF and ARATS rather than say, the courts or some channel not subject entirely to Beijing's good will.

KMT caucus labels RTI ex-director "partisan hack"

In response to today's Liberty Times piece on Ma administration interference in the programming of RTI, the KMT legislative caucus has responded by saying former director Cheng You (鄭優), who resigned last Saturday, was a partisan hack who only got his job because of his political leanings.

Cheng You provided no comments during subsequent questioning by the press.

KMT caucus deputy secretary-general Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) stated that the KMT is now fully in power and must accept full responsibility; all officials given political posts under the previous administration ought to resign. Even those officials who still have time left in their term should also stop criticizing (or in her words, slandering) the government.

(Former New Party, now KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-Bao (賴士葆) declared Cheng used a national radio station and national money to produce programming that excessively attacked President Ma, which is, in his view, clearly not in line with RTI's function as a government organ.

KMT legislator Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) stated Cheng You should have resigned after the transfer of power because of his green leanings (never mind his term was to last another year, and that term lengths were set to avoid excessive making the post purely a political propaganda director's job).

She noted an example of the bias programming when it came to the milk powder scandal: sure, RTI had to report on the poisoned milk powder coming from China, but if it wasn't for his ideology, why would the programming spend so much time attacking China at a time of warming relations?


Ok, this press conference was not comforting. I was especially upset by calls for all officials appointed during the last administration to either shape up or ship out. That's simply chilling.

Now this kind of thing is always a problem -- just see how much Bush hates NPR and PBS. Politicians don't always get along with the officials at nationaly funded news outlets, who are nevertheless supposed to reject any political pressure and be as fair as possible. And they will still be accused of bias. Bias is often in the eye of the beholder.

I don't listen to RTI enough to know just how bias their reports might have been, and would say you need a lot more than one or two examples to indicate bias.

But two things are telling here: first, no one has bothered to look at hard numbers, such as amount of time spent on critical vs. favorable vs. neutral reporting on government policies under the Ma vs. the Chen administration.

Second, the example used by the KMT caucus is absurd. The poisoned milk powder scandal has dominated headlines because it's such a real, scary, and preventable tragedy that Chinese officials and press covered up for far too long. And this kind of thing naturally would bring up a string of subsequent stories about related issues -- melamine like pesticides, the tainted pet food from a few months ago, the Chinese-made, melamine-tainted soy milk found in Indonesia, etc.

So is this a sign of things to come? I think so. The KMT loves the Singapore model. But only time will tell.

China Times carries a kernel of truth

Today China Times has a very truthful headline: when Pinyin meets politics, a consensus is difficult to achieve. But they close the piece with sheer nonsense.

In reality, [Tongyong Pinyin and Hanyu Pinyin] both have their strengths. For example, when Tongyong was being developed, a main difference was to not use "x" and "q" as Hanyu Pinyin did because the pronunciation did not correspond with English reading habits and was not convenient for foreigners to read. On the other hand, Tongyong spells the pronunciation of 「ㄓ」as "jh," but English doesn't have this cluster and the choice made it difficult for foreigners to pronounce, unlike the Hanyu Pinyin "zh." Which spelling system is best? It will be difficult to come to consensus in the short term.

事實上,兩種拼音方式各有優劣, 例如當初設計通用拼音,主要是去除漢語拼音中,不符合英文讀寫習慣的「x」和「q」的發音,便於外籍人士閱讀。但相對,漢語拼音中「ㄓ」的發言拼寫為 「jh」,在英文中沒有這種拼法,也導致外籍人士發音困難,不像漢語拼音將「ㄓ」拼寫為韋氏音標已有的「zh」。兩種拼音方式孰優孰劣?短期內恐怕難有共 識。

Fact: neither "zh" nor "jh" consonant clusters exist in English. Neither does the basic sound [ʈʂ], a retroflexive affricate, occur in English. The closest we get are the post-aveolar affricates [tʃ] and [dʒ], generally represented with either "ch" or "j".

Now it may make sense to create your own new consonant cluster to represent a unique sound (from and English speaker's perspective), but let us not pretend that somehow "Zh" is easier to read than "Jh" for the uninitiated.


While the local media is focused with the coming rise in electricity costs and Wang Jinping's call for legislative approval of cross-strait agreements, the Liberty Times leads with a very serious accusation: That the Ma administration has tried to interfere with the programming of Radio Taiwan International (中央廣播電台), especially to reduce criticism of China.

First you should know something about RTI:

Radio Taiwan International (RTI) is the international radio service of the Central Broadcasting System (CBS) of the Republic of China (Taiwan). It is a government-owned station that broadcasts in 13 languages around the world.
The first paragraph sums up the charges well:
Rumors circulating at Radio Taiwan International indicate that under pressure and attention from the Ma government, there will be an impromptu meeting of the board of directors. A number of 'independent' board members (will) resign together to indicate their dissatisfaction. One board member indignantly said that the Ma administration has interfered considerably in the broadcast content, including "a restriction on excessive criticism of China."

Unusual for such a hit piece, the Liberty Times did in fact let the Executive Yuan's Government Information Office respond. They said the charges are baseless, evidence does not support the accusations and the Ma administration has exerted no such pressure.

This second piece also clarifies that RTI Chairman Cheng You (鄭優) resigned last Saturday, saying "some people in society" have labeled him as having a certain party affiliation (Green) and think he isn't doing his job well since Ma's administration took office.

Now if this is true (it may not be, but the story has credibility to me because anonymous sources are rarely board members), it's quite a stunning charge. I mean, it's not a new concept for a regime to use state-owned media to push its own agenda as much as possible, but I don't think this will fly with Taiwanese people anymore.

I suppose we will find out tomorrow if anyone resigns or if there's more follow ups to the story. For now I'm treating the story with caution.

ICRT stories today

A few I liked. Here they are:

Top China negotiator's Taiwan visit in the pipeline ...

The Mainland Affairs Council says Taipei and Beijing have reached a vague
consensus on a possible visit to Taiwan by China's top cross-strait

Although details remain to be confirmed ... Chen Yun-lin .... the president
of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits is expected to
visit Taiwan in late October, or early November.

M-A-C spokesman ... Liu Der-xun said the exact timing of the Chen's meeting
with the head of the Straits Exchange Foundation in Taiwan has not been
determined and that officials are continuing to exchange views on the matter.

However ... the D-P-P slammed the possible visit to Taiwan by Chen .. saying
that the party will not welcome his visit to Taiwan until China apologizes
and compensates individuals and companies who have sustained losses because
of the import tainted Chinese dairy products and foodstuffs.

Talks are slated to be held in late October, or early November at which deals
are expected to be signed on cross-strait cargo flights and direct maritime
National pension system to begin operation October 1st ..
The Ministry of the Interior has said that the new National Pension system
will go into effect on October 1-st.

The new program is aimed at providing assistance to senior citizens and
disabled people who are not covered by other insurance policies.

According to the M-O-I ... the national pension system is open to anyone with
household registration aged between 25 and 65 who is not covered by other
social welfare insurance.

The new system will reportedly cover an estimated 3.53-million people,
including the unemployed, street vendors, housekeepers, naturalized foreign
spouses and students aged over 25 years of age.

However ... there has been criticism of the program .. with critics
expressing concern about the nation's financial state and political

The government will have to spend 28.47-billion N-T dollars next year on
national pension subsidies, while only 7.5-billion of surplus from the public
welfare lottery is expected to find its way into the national pension fund.

Sep 29, 2008

MOE stresses the classics

This news almost entirely escaped the attention or interest of the English media:

The Ministry of Education (MOE) announced yesterday plans to increase the number of Chinese literature classes and the percentage of classical Chinese literary works in the nation’s high school curriculum. Vice Education Minister Wu Tsai-shun (吳財順) told reporters in the ministry that the number of Chinese literature classes offered in high school had been reduced to four sessions per week in the curriculum guidelines published in 2006 year. The amount of classical Chinese literature in high school Chinese literature textbooks has dropped to 45 percent, Wu said. “What we are certain now is that classical Chinese literary works will account for more than 45 percent of the content of high school Chinese literature textbooks,” Wu said. Wu said the ministry would also make Analects of Confucius (論語) and the Works of Mencius (孟子), both of which were optional under previous regulations, required reading for high school students.
The lack of interest does not extend to the Chinese language media, even in China. And some still find the increase in classical content to be inadequate.

I am generally supportive of efforts to keep the younger generation literate in Classical Chinese, but don't like the way this new policy.

Let us be clear exactly what the new policy means: the increase in Classical Literature --

(1) directly equates into less time for modern prose and poetry and local authors;

(2) cements a Confucian-oriented education system by requiring the Analects and Mencius with no attention being paid to Zhuangzi, Hanfeizi, Laozi and other classical philosophers (as that first Liberty Times article points out, it's almost like the KMT wants to relive the Han dynasty); and

(3) is likely almost 100% ideologically driven, by those conservative elements who wish to revive the 'old days' of China-oriented thinking. They are more interested in forcing kids to read several-thousand-year-old texts than they are in improving the education system in some substantial way. The system has plenty of real problems no matter who you ask. Classical Chinese has to be the least of them.

Great NYT article on the unfolding of the milk scandal


Sep 26, 2008

Melamine standard NOT back to 0.0ppm

The firestorm of Taiwanese fury caused that 2.5ppm policy to reverse in a hurry.

Update: commenter said I was wrong. Taiwan will continue to use the test that only detects over 2.0ppm and call any lower level "undetected." Will let you know if this changes, though, because DPP will now push hard for some stricter standards and labeling.

Video rap on Ma & the milk powder debacle

It's the third most popular video on today. I made a subtitled version, but the white subtitles don't come out so well. So here's the video with the subtitle code below. Not perfect, but I had to do it in a hurry and without consulting any native speakers. Enjoy!

Note: I think it's irrationally anti-China & anti-Ma, but it's entertainment. What can you say.

00:01 This song is for the great Mr. Ma
00:07 This song goes out to Regional Leader Ma
00:12 This song is for the mysterious|Department of Health
00:16 I hope the fake and dangerous| products from China,
00:18 the poisoned milk powder,
00:21 And the Chinese people
00:23 won't come to Taiwan anymore.
00:25 I hope all of Taiwan's children
00:28 can grow up healthy and happy.
00:31 We can't do much about the milk powder
00:34 But we can speak the truth.
00:37 Lastly, I hope all of our| Taiwanese friends
00:41 can live in happiness.
00:44 The poison milk powder scandal| has rocked the globe
00:46 Taiwanese have endangered themselves
00:48 Mr. Ma, as usual,|isn't getting involved
00:50 And has retreated|to the second line - shit!
00:52 He never knows anything| 'till he sees it in the paper
00:54 Once he knows he thanks |everyone for their advice
00:57 Now I know why they call him| "Little incompetent/coward"
00:59 Making so many goodwill| gestures to China
01:01 Showing no trace of boldness
01:03 The "truce" in foreign relations
01:05 is making the word "Taiwan"| disappear internationally
01:07 Taiwan has third wives,|horse milk, fake milk, G-cups
01:11 But none of them compare|to China's poison milk powder
01:13 The government has left| the gates wide open
01:15 It's as if nobody's even home.
01:17 Tell Chiu Yi to go investigate
01:20 If he's not bullshitting|he'll be right on the money
01:22 As soon as they run into|dangerous Chinese goods
01:24 The Ma administration |doesn't say a word
01:26 Won't even make a squeak for fear of|angering their motherland, China.
01:28 He will say, this is A-bian's fault.
01:30 A-bian processed this milk powder.
01:32 A-bian made Ma's support drop to 20%.
01:36 I can't stand it anymore.
01:38 Taiwanese people are angry.
01:40 Dispirited people talk of suicide,
01:42 The spirited want revolution.
01:44 If it's "Made in China" it's dangerous
01:47 Taiwanese stars call China| "the interior" on TV
01:50 Taiwan's inland is Nantou,| not China
01:52 Stop acting like a dog,
01:54 wagging your tail so China| will throw a bone.
01:58 Dangerous Chinese goods| aren't news
02:00 They've been around a long time
02:02 I've discovered the most dangerous
02:04 Chinese good of all is Ma "Milk"-jeou.
02:06 Dangerous Chinese goods |aren't news
02:08 They've been around a long time
02:10 I've discovered the most dangerous
02:12 Chinese good of all is Ma "Milk"-jeou.
02:14 refrain: Thank you for your advice,
02:16 everything is being handled|in accordance with law.
02:18 I saw in the paper today|
02:20 that the government has relaxed|the melamine standards.
02:22 Those goods that had been| labeled as poisonous
02:24 and that were set to be recalled
02:26 Are now labeled as 'safe'
02:28 And there's no need to|recall them anymore.
02:30 Too mysterious.
02:32 Nothing to do about it.
02:34 This is what we get with| Mr. Ma's government.
02:42 I hope Taiwanese people| can be healthy and happy
02:46 Good luck everyone.
02:48 Go Taiwan.

Will Chinese be allowed to sit exams for employment here?

ICRT reports ...

The Minister of Examinations has slammed plans by the government that would
allow Chinese nationals to obtain professional licenses in Taiwan.

Yang Zhao-xiang said Taiwan should not open its doors to Chinese nationals
seeking to obtain Taiwanese professional licenses due to the nation's
climbing unemployment rate.

Speaking in the Legislative Yuan ... Yang said in-depth discussions and
debates need to take place before Chinese nationals be allowed to sit
examinations and seek employment in Taiwan

The statement follows moves by the government to allow Chinese students to
study at local universities and colleges and recognize Chinese academic

The Ma Administration's move has sparked controversy .. with lawmakers from
the main opposition saying that local students will be compromised and jobs
harder to find if Chinese nationals are allowed in and Chinese academic
credentials recognized.

Ma wasn't on the front lines

Remember how the DOH relaxed the melamine standards to accommodate some Taiwanese businessmen at the expense of Taiwanese health? Turns out Ma didn't know about that until after it happened, if you believe what he said. The premier might not even have known.

At this point, even plenty of KMT legislators are calling for some cabinet reshuffling.

Sep 25, 2008

DOH Minister Lin Fang-yu resigns

ICRT reports ...

To shoulder the blame for the public turmoil over tainted China-made milk
powder, Taiwan's Department of Health Minister Lin Fang-yu has tendered his

Lin, a cardiosurgeon-turned-administrator, says he is awaiting the Cabinet's
response to his resignation offer.

Lin's resignation comes roughly two weeks after the disclosure that 25 tons
of melamine-contaminated milk powder had been imported from China into
the country.

The DOH's follow-up handling of the issue has drawn widespread criticism,
with the latest development being the agency's relaxation on the limit of
melamine, a toxic chemical.

Previously the DOH's tolerance for melamine was it's 2.5 parts per
million, the same standard adopted by the Hong Kong authorities.

This abrupt change in policy resulted in numerous products bound for the
incinerators suddenly becoming legitimate again.

But the Consumer's Foundation, the CF, experts in the food industry and food
studies have all lashed out at the DOH's decision, criticizing it as being
negligent of people's welfare.

CF secretary Wu Jia-cheng says studies have shown that prolonged exposure to
melamine can lead to diseases of the kidney or bladder, as well as bladder

Wu says the DOH should not have yielded to pressure from business.

Some headlines

All from Taipei Times.

Ma wants Beijing hotline for information

Taiwan’s supporters on Capitol Hill slam freeze on arms sales

No work for Chinese in Taiwan

Ministry distances itself from Lee’s views on Diaoyutais

Lee's best quote on Chinese and Taiwanese claims to the Diaoyutais yesterday:

"It's like you saw a beautiful woman and just started calling her your wife."

Taiwan alters melamine standards

Not encouraging...

The Department of Health (DOH) said last night that the highest permissible concentration of melamime in raw materials and processed foods is to be 2.5 parts per million (ppm), rather than zero ppm as it had announced on Tuesday.

Because of this easing of standards malt extract and creamer manufactured by Union Chemical Industrial Co, Ltd and creamer manufactured by Festsun Enterprise Co Ltd, originally declared unsafe by the DOH on Tuesday, are now considered fit for consumption because their concentration is lower than 2.5ppm.

The new standard was the result of a meeting between the DOH, Bureau of Food and Drug Analysis and Food Industry Research and Development Institute. The use of 2.5ppm as a standard mirrors that used in Hong Kong.

However, for products meant to for consumption by infants, such as baby formula, the standard is set at 1ppm.

At an earlier press conference, the DOH contradicted itself about whether vegetable-based protein products would be among the products pulled from shelves until they could be tested for melamine.

Following an emergency meeting headed by Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄), the health department announced on Tuesday night that all foodstuffs containing Chinese-made dairy or vegetable-based proteins should be pulled from store shelves within 24 hours for batch-by-batch examination.

However, Deputy Health Minister Sung Yen-jen (宋晏仁) told a 5:30pm press conference yesterday that Chinese-made instant coffee, milk tea and creamer in liquid and powder form were to be removed unless their manufacturers or importers had obtained certificates proving the products were safe.

His announcement, however, made no mention of “plant proteins,” only “creamer.”

When reporters asked about the change, Sung simply read the official press release again.

Sep 24, 2008

Why don't the Taiwanese kids come play with us?

Here's the subtitled version.

If you thought melamine in your milk powder was bad...

... then I suggest you get a job as a high ranking Communist Party official, which earns you access to safer, organic food from all over the country. No need to worry about the melamine-like fertilizers or the general problem of fake or disturbingly processed food.

Absentee voting

The Taipei Times reports:

The adoption of an absentee-ballot system continued to be a bone of contention between the pan-green and pan-blue camps as pundits from both sides could not agree on the issue at a roundtable held at the Central Election Commission (CEC) yesterday.

While the pan-blues argued that the implementation of an absentee-ballot system would ensure the right to vote for all Taiwanese nationals, including those living overseas, the pan-greens said the system must not be launched haphazardly, especially as Beijing could easily intercept correspondence between Taiwan and China.
I like the idea of absentee voting but certainly fear problems with the way that voting would go over in China. Do you think Taishang there won't fear their mail being checked on its way out?

Dear American:

Those following the US financial mess will appreciate this.

Sep 23, 2008

Taiwan will take Chinese students

again via ICRT ...

Taiwan universities will begin taking students from China next year for the first time ever.

Government agencies are said to be studying the details on ways to allow
students from China as part of President Ma Ying-jeou's policy of increasing
exchanges between Taiwan and China.

Deputy Education Minister Lu Mu-lin called it a segment of greater
communication across the Taiwan Strait.

Lu said Taiwan must decide how many students it wants from China each year
and change laws on visa terms before the new policy can take effect

Students from China were barred previously for security reasons, but numerous
universities here are struggling for lack of local enrollment.

That might not help the schools on the lower end of the scale ... as Lu notes
that Chinese students are likely to be picky about which Taiwan schools they
pick attend.

A spokesman for National Taiwan University said they are hoping to recruit
China's best students to raise the reputation of the university.

Ma as traitor

A translation of the first paragraph of a letter to Liberty Times that was published on 9/6.

According to the constitution of the Republic of China, Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country with the official name of the Republic of China. However, Ma Ying-jeou says in an interview with Mexico's Sun Times: "The cross strait relationship is not a country to country relationship." If we go by Ma's logic, what is Taiwan? A regional government? A special administrative region? Now that Mr. Ma has already said Taiwan is not a country, we would like him to declare the 3/22 presidential election to be invalid. Mr. Ma was not running to be head of state but for the office of a special administrative region. Nevertheless, Ma was legally elected Taiwan's president, and then openly claimed his own country was not a country. Ma has therefore already commited treason -- treason against the Republic of China. He no longer has the qualifications to continue acting as our nation's leader, and we must call for his immediate resignation.


KMT admits years of obstruction

OK, not exactly. But KMT legislators did admit that 10 of 12 iTaiwan projects that were a major Ma campaign promise (largely infrastructure investments) are actually DPP era proposals that, given their merits, will now be passed and implemented.

Which, of course, would have been just impossible to do with a Chen administration in charge, since he could potentially look competent.

I will also note I'm skeptical of this kind of infrastructure spending plan was/is anything more than a gift to the construction industry.

Ma's support really is low

As Michael Turton notes, you can't make too much of a TVBS poll showing 28% support for Ma (despite Blue bias, TVBS is also sensationalist, somewhat anti-government for ratings, and has a terrible polling record).

But taken together with the latest and more serious poll from Global Views(遠見) showing 24.9% support for Ma, you can bet people really are unhappy with his performance so far.

A October/November time frame planned visit to Taiwan by China's Taiwan Affairs Office Director Chen Yunlin (陈云林) will likely be cause for protests from Green groups.

Feature on prostitution laws

Check it out.


The Special Investigation Group has summoned former premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) to appear in the court. Chang said he had accepted a gift of NT$2million from Chen Shui-bian, given by Chen in appreciation of Chang's handling of the financial dangers of 2002 and the cleanliness of the 2001 elections. It is difficult to know how this will effect the investigation, except that prosecutors have basically promised to convict Chen already anyway.

Correction/update: via ICRT:

Former premier Su Zhen-chang and former Interior Minister Li Yi-yang say Chen
Shui-bian gave them 20 million NT for an anti-China rally back in March of

Prosecutors on a special anti-corruption unit questioned the former senior
politicians for about 50 minutes this afternoon ... as they investigate
alleged abuse of a special presidential fund for state affairs by Chen.

Su and Li ... who were DPP chairman and secretary general respectively back
in early 2005 ... say Chen gave them the money for a rally on March 26th of
that year to protest China's anti-secession law.

When the two came out of the prosecutor's office ... media asked Su if the 20
million NT came from the special presidential fund for state affairs.

Su responded with a question of his own ... asking reporters if they were
also working with authorities to investigate the case.

Refusing to elaborate ... Su noted that the details of a prosecutorial
investigation by law are to be kept confidential.

China gives preview of "meaningful participation" in WHO

The Liberty Times leads with a report about WHO issues between Taiwan and China. The article cites a CNA report, and the main source is a "trustworthy official who wished to go unnamed."

The gist of the article is this: Taiwan wrote the WHO last week to notify that some materials containing poisoned milk powder imported from China had already been processed into food products in Taiwan and sent to Hong Kong. The WHO "replied," sending a letter to the Chinese government and giving a copy to Taiwan. In the letter, Taiwan was labeled "Taiwan, China" 「中國台灣」. Taiwan's foreign ministry spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) has already said Taiwan will protest how this situation was handled and obviously cannot accept this sort of degradation.


Naturally, all such degrading behavior is likely to have been done at specific request from China.

Sep 22, 2008

ICRT: scaled-down military drills underway

The armed forces here today launched a week of low-key military drills,
including a controversial decision to cancel a live-fire display.

A ministry of defense spokesman said exercises this week would focus on
military-media relations and military hospitality, particularly for
high-level guests.

The spokesman said "It's not the same as in the past," adding "We're reducing

The decision to leave the televised live-fire displays out of the five day
Kuang exercises, which former president Chen Shui-bian used to flex Taiwan's
muscles before the eyes of Beijing, has been criticized by some as kowtowing
to China, and weakening Taiwan defensively.

However, one prominent analyst said the priority is to keep Han Kuang as
low-key as possible to smooth cross-strait relations," adding they don't want
a wrong interpretation."

However, analysts also say Taiwan must carry out some kind of exercise to
ensure conservative elements in the United States that it isn't getting too
close to China too fast.


Sep 19, 2008


This will be a long post.

I was browsing through the Chinese version of Fool's Mountain, and came across a very interesting link to a blog post from 多维博客, which in turn reproduces an article from the Study Times (a Central Party School weekly). As Fool's Mountain mentions, the comments on the blog post are insightful.


In brief, the author's argument that goes like this: who can name a country that was initially democratic and subsequently modernized economically? The author (himself a scholar) put this question to a group of foreign scholars and students. A number of responses were roundly rejected (India because it is still 20-30 years behind China in the writer's mind; Botswana and Costa Rica on similar grounds).

The author goes on to list failures of Western style democracies that were started from scratch: the American led efforts to establish democracy in the Philippines, Liberia, and Iraq were all examples.

The next subject is America, which only effectively allowed blacks to effectively vote from 1965 on, and Switzerland, which only gave women the right to vote in 1971. This was mentioned to point out the very gradual process of democratization as it occurred in Western countries, and as a gentle reminder to that West should not be so harshly critical of non-democratic countries.

Finally the author gets to his real point: what happens if China democratizes tomorrow? If civil war can be avoided and the country doesn't shatter into a million pieces, China would most likely end up with a farmer's government (farmers are the majority). The author carefully notes that he is not prejudiced against farmers (after all, he notes, all of us had ancestors who were farmers 3 or 4 generations back at most). But as Mao said, a great difficulty is in educating the farmers; because a farmers government could not lead a modern industrialized state.

At this point, another student protests, calling democracy a holy, common value that China should accept. The professor responds: the concept may be a common value, but the exact implementation is still controversial. He argues further that if Western Democracy is so good, everyone will come around to it sooner or later. But to push this idea on other people, and even use force to create democracy, as the US did in Iraq, is going to far.

The conversation then died down, but that does not stop the author from expounding his point in the article. He notes that all the philosophers who thought up this whole democratic system were in favor of limited participation and systematic checks (ie, Republics as opposed to direct democracies). He also points to some points in the book Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War.

He finishes his argument for postponed implementation of Chinese democracy by noting the success of the last 30 years of development and again chastises Westerners (Americans) for pushing democracy for the sake of democracy. He notes any democratic reforms must be gradual and well suited to China.



Cross-strait politics

There's a discussion on it over at Fool's Mountain that takes off from a Ralph Jenning's article via Reuters. Feel free to chime in.

Wu didn't show in court today; court getting impatient

From ICRT:

Lawyers for former first lady Wu Shu-zhen called a press conference earlier
today to explain her failure to appear in court.

According to Li Sheng-xiong, they received a document from the National
Taiwan University Hospital yesterday on Wu's health, a document he described
as 'permanently secret'.

Without going into details, Li said the document claimed Wu's health is
precarious and she would be in danger of dying due to the stress of appearing
in court.

Li says it is only for this reason that Wu did not appear for trial,
otherwise, he claims she was fully prepared to show up this morning.

However, court officials seem unwilling to accept this as an excuse.

They say medical staff were prepared and on-site to handle any health
emergencies Wu may have experience.

They also point out that compared to the rigors of being a lawmaker and first
lady, appearing in court should be well within Wu's tolerances.

Sep 18, 2008

Hebei Provencial Chief: we knew about the tainted milk more than a month ago

But of course, we wouldn't want to ruin the Olympic celebrations. So better keep it under wraps and hope not too many children die.

Update: Maddog notes in comments, quoting another article:
- - -
At least since June, the harmful nature of the powdered milk from the company Sanlu had been denounced to the competent general administration for the supervision of quality, inspection, and quarantines[*]. In July, a local TV station in Hunan talked about it, alarmed over the elevated number of children hospitalized with kidney stones. But everything was silenced to avoid scandals ahead of the Olympics, and the media were prohibited from even speaking about it.
- - -

Ma considered letting Taiwanese businssmen be Chinese officials

That was basically the world's shortest-lived piece of news yesterday. The type of official in China is apparently called a member of Political Consultative Conference (政协委员); Mainland Affairs Council chair Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said two days ago that participation in the city and provincial levels of these conferences was less sensitive, and that the MAC would research how and if Taishang could serve in them.

The DPP then went on a propaganda flurry, raising worries about immediate and total sell out as well as serious conflict of interest scenarios, and the KMT government instantly backed down yesterday, saying that it was not possible to reconcile Chinese and Taiwanese law on this matter, so for the time being participation by Taishang in these Political Consultative Conferences would not be allowed.

The very fact it was even considered seems very disturbing to me, though the KMT who supported it probably argue it's just another way to safegaurd Taishang interests and increase their say in how things are done in their place of business.

Sep 16, 2008

Roundup 9/16

New Kaohsiung line attracts 4,000 rush hour passengers (Taipei Times)

Go Kaohsiung!

Wang says KMT to push sunshine bills in new session (Taipei Times)

Yeah, right. They've been saying that since Ma's chairmanship.

Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) will ask China to stop saying "The Taiwan region of our country" when referring to Taiwan. How gentlemanly.

We need to read between the lines here: Chiang and the KMT firmly believe Taiwan and China are part of the same country; they just prefer that China avoid saying so, because saying this hurts the KMT's electoral hopes.

The KMT is very likely to push ahead with the CEPA pact in the name of saving the economy. Magic KMT formula for fixing everything: more China.

The legislature plans to formalize the reversion of Taiwan Post and TDMH to Chunghua Post and CKS Memorial Hall.

Ma calls on local governments to act as the Earth God (土地公), providing whatever the locals need.

Update: (quick note on this: I believe the phrase 有求必應, which Ma used to describe how the Earth God serves people in an area, is actually normally attached to the temples for 萬應公, who is the kind of god that problem gamblers , deeply troubled drug addicts and others at the end of their road go to ask for salvation).

Sep 12, 2008

The return of the Party-State?

Two rather disturbing events point to the reassertion of a Party-State mentality in the KMT:

First, and most disturbing, recent revelations that the the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), through the Economic Ministry, asked the Taipei Business Administrative Office (aka the Taipei City Office of Commerce) to check the accounts of green-leaning companies. The TBAO/TCOC then sent out a letter asking its people to make the appropriate investigations. The TBAO/TCOC denies political motive and says both blue and green leaning companies accounts were checked, but did not provide any further detials on names or number of companies checked.

Now here's some news from a reporter friend on this subject:

It's true ah, it's on the TV and a copy of the official document was shown on video. 台北市政府商業處 director admitted that they have sent such a letter, but said the staffer has "made a mistake" and "forgot to remove the part about the KMT" (which means it's a request from the KMT, but they forgot to cover it??)
And same reporter friend summerized the second disturbing event
Also, there's another piece of news that Ma Ying-jeou, who bough 4,200 boxes of moon cakes from welfare groups with the state affairs fund, is distributing the moon cakes through KMT local branch offices. The Wu Poh-hsiung declined to comment, but the Presidential Office said it's not a big deal because it's just "for the convenience of distribution" and "it's not important through which channel we distribute the moon cakes but who receives them."

Sep 11, 2008

DPP poll: 66% believe Ma is leading Taiwan towards unification

Assuming the poll is somewhat accurate, people aren't all that inept after all! Ma is likely to face backlash if these feelings are true and if the "closeness" to the Chinese government doesn't bring some tangible benefits fast.

A slight majority also reject the characterization of Taiwan-China relations as anything other than country-to-country relations; about 63% said they are not seeing good will gestures from China.

Sixty-six percent of respondents believe Ma will lead Taiwan toward unification; 26 percent said he was maintaining the status quo.

Sep 10, 2008

China keeps panda gift domestic

As the Liberty Times points out today, China's regulations indicate only Chinese territory can receive pandas as a "gift" (other countries must basically rent them), and they will be sticking to that domestic formula when transferring the pandas to Taiwan. They will probably not make any particular concessions on this, and Taipei is not likely to make a big fuss, either.

The Liberty Times decried this as another intentional willingness to "internalize" the Taiwan issue into a Chinese only issue, especially following Ma's "one country, two regions" formula and the recent revelation that the government is increasingly calling Taiwan "The Taiwan region of the ROC." Not to mention other slacking efforts on the diplomatic front to expand and maintain our remaining allies, who are showing less and less interest in promoting Taiwan's cause or the slow progress of weapons purchases.

See also Ma's reinstitution of the song "I love China" (我愛中華), which will once again be sung at military bases across the country daily, and his plan to recite "Long live the ROC" on this year's Double Ten.

(corrected): Some lone protestor said Ma clearly wants unification and believes he should stop dancing around the issue.

Meanwhile, Ma tries to deflect some of this backlash, saying in an interview with the NYU Law magazine that China's plan for a "One country, two systems" model with Taiwan made him feel frustrated, but he'd continue to try to improve economic conditions with China and get them to understand Taiwan needs some real international space.

Tsai speaks with overseas Taiwanese supporters

Taiwan News has the story:

"The entire Taiwan society has grave concerns about the KMT government's stance toward China," she said, adding that KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) was guilty of a "serious misjudgment" of a political situation.

Wu's claim, shortly after a visit to China earlier this year, that "China does not intend to fire missiles at Taiwan" was totally misguided, Tsai said.

"China may sometimes seem kind or nice to Taiwan, but such a switch in its attitude could be the result of its internal problems or changing international situations," she said.

Tsai asserted that it is necessary for the DPP to re-examine its policies and rediscover its founding spirit and ideals after its loss of power in May this year.

"In the face of Taiwan's dwindling independent sovereignty and worsening economic situation, the DPP's top priority on the current stage is to protect national sovereignty, help improve the economy and take care of the underprivileged," she stressed.

"The general public expects the DPP to safeguard Taiwan's independent sovereignty, and this is the biggest difference between the KMT and the DPP, according to poll results, " the DPP chairwoman noted.

Several surveys by the DPP also found that more than 50 percent of Taiwan's people are worried that Taiwan is on the wrong path, she said.

Ma reneges on another pledge

The government has indicated that, contrary to campaign promises, Taiwanese who hold Chinese university degrees will be allowed to take the public service test.

Sep 9, 2008

Taiwan Society ticketed for parade

Taipei City Government fined the Taiwan Society for their 8-30 parade in seven instances, primarily for failure to clean up slogans and trash in the areas of the parade. The Taiwan Society has basically complained the fines seem disproportional. The Taipei City EPA mentioned that the "Oust A-bian" rally was also fined seven times for similar offenses.

Chen acquitted of slander

From ICRT:

The Taipei District Court has cleared former President Chen Shui-bian in the
slander charges brought against him by former navy admiral Lei Xue-ming and
other navy officials.

Opposition DPP lawmaker Lai Qing-de and Xu Guo-yong, co-defendants in the
same case, have also been acquitted.

The verdict says that Lei and others had already been impeached by the
Control Yuan and indicted on corruption charges before Chen, Lai and Xu in
2005 publicly accused Lei of taking 20 million U.S. dollars in kick-backs
when purchasing French Lafayette frigates.

The verdict says therefore Lei's reputation was something that "the public
could comment on."

Sep 8, 2008

Ma's "two regions" formula

As we all probably can still recall, Ma got into office talking about a Taiwan-first policy, economic on rejuvenation and better relations with China sans Formosa sellout. Most people saw this wasn't likely to be the case.

And indeed, it wasn't. Last Friday the Liberty Times was livid about an interview (English) Ma Ying-jeou had with a Mexican paper in which Ma rejected the formulation of the interviewer, who called Taiwan a sovereign and independent country, and insisted relations between Taiwan and China are a "special relationship" that are specifically not between two countries.

Ma has long accepted the 92 consensus, which explicitly rejects a "state-to-state" or even "two China's" ideology; but Ma has been pretty good at dodging this reality while pretending he's being slandered by the green side. That won't last much longer, I think.

Take this article about a speech Lee Teng-hui made recently:
Speaking with Mexican newspaper Sol de Mexico last month, Ma defined ties between Taiwan and China as “special relations,” reversing a decade-long government position.

The text of the interview was released by the Presidential Office last Wednesday. The next day, the Office elaborated on the text, saying that under the 11th Amendment to the Constitution and the Statute Governing the Relations Between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), the relationship between Taiwan and China is one between two regions....

At a fundraising dinner last night in Taipei, Lee said that Taiwan is a de jure, independent country and that only the people, not the president, have the power to change the cross-strait “status quo” in a referendum.

“When I was president back in 1999, I at least advocated that Taiwan and China had ‘special state-to-state relations’ and that Taiwan certainly does not have an internal relationship with China,” Lee said.

“The people have elected Ma as their leader. But it does not authorize him to surrender Taiwan’s sovereignty. The decisive power lies in the hands of the people. If any changes were to take place, they would have to be through a referendum — to let the people determine their future,” he added.
So, let's just hope that's not the sound of sovereignty slipping away ...

Sep 3, 2008


People who follow and debate politics essentially are following a "team game," and attach themselves (more or less) to a team or individual, then watch and discuss what they're doing, normally in terms of whether the policies and believes are "good" or "bad."

The sick thing is the real word implications of all those decisions and how it affects so many people, and how virtually any decision is bound to affect some people in negative ways. In many ways, following and discussing the war in Iraq is like watching and cheering gladiator fights of old. And those of us on the couch or in front of the monitor aren't the ones getting hurt, either.

Ma's suicidal foreign policy strikes again

With questions being raised about president Ma Ying-jeou's diplomatic truce
with China ... another ally of Taiwan's has announced it won't voice support
for the island's United Nations bid.

Just the day after the Foreign Ministry here said Paraguay has decided it
won't speak out on behalf of Taiwan ... Haiti has now made a similar

Haiti president Rene Garcia Preval is said to have already apologized to Ma
in advance for the decision.

According to reports ... when Ma visited Latin America last month ... Preval
is said to have told Ma that he couldn't risk offending China ... as there
are United Nation's peacekeepers stationed in his country.

Preval is said to have told Ma he's sorry ... and asked for his understanding.

The opposition DPP has criticized Ma's recent declaration of a diplomatic
truce with China ... saying it will backfire and lead to more allies
defecting from Taiwan's camp.

Ma has said he'll only move forward with the truce as long as China

Sep 1, 2008

Black-browed Barbet

I've been hearing this mysterious bird call coming from the forest behind me and I've been totally unable to figure out what bird it is. After some research, though, and listening to more than a few sound clips, I believe the bird in question is the Black-browed Barbit, which I find especially exciting because I've always been a fan of the Painted Bunting, which looks quite similar (though they're unrelated). I haven't seen either bird myself, but just knowing who is making that call brings a smile to my face.